Hayling United manager Steve Poulton believes his side can put their relegation battles behind them and become an established Wessex premier force.
In recent seasons the Humbugs have successfully achieved great escapes to move clear of the drop in dramatic fashion.
This season, United have gathered 22 points from their 18 games – putting them nine points ahead of second-from-bottom New Milton Town.
Though Poulton’s team still have more than half their games still to play, he is confident they can finish at least in a mid-table position.
‘I don’t think that we can be regarded as the whipping boys of the league any longer,’ said Poulton.
‘We showed in our 5-2 win over Portchester on Saturday and in our results against top sides this season that we can be very competitive.
‘Last season we had a terrific finish and we have looked to carry on from there.
‘If we can put back-to-back wins together it should take us out of the relegation equation for good.’
Poulton’s team is largely still young, with the average age of the defence only 22 years.
But he does have a more experienced trio of Nathan Kirby, Pete Murphy and Steve Black in midfield.
They possess experience and a physical presence in abundance, providing a bit of steel in the centre of the park.
Up front, youngsters Lee Tigwell, Alex Easton and Mike Turvey have plenty of energy and desire to do well.
Keeper Luke Hutchings, currently ruled out by injury, is only 19 years of age but has been with Reading and Aldershot.
‘If we can keep these lads together then the future looks bright,’ said Poulton.
‘The team has changed a lot since I have been here and we rely on the honesty of our players.
‘Hopefully they will stay but it is not always easy when other clubs are offering them £40 a game.
‘There is a lot of money in the Wessex League but we don’t pay anything.
‘All our lads are interested in playing at a decent level in an organised team.’
Hayling often have an advantage on their own patch when some teams do not take to the conditions.
It’s a weapon Poulton is always happy to have in his armoury.
The Hayling boss said: ‘Over the past few seasons we have developed a siege mentality at Hayling, particularly when clubs come here moaning about the facilities.
‘We are working hard to improve things like all Wessex clubs.
‘It isn’t easy sometimes when the wind blows off the sea across our exposed pitch.
‘More often than not, though, it is the visitors’ attitude that defeats them rather than our pitch.
‘It is great for us if they turn up and don’t fancy it.
‘Other teams have come here and played us off the park so you can’t blame the pitch.’
There is still a lot of work ahead for Hayling this season.
They have given themselves a platform to steer clear of the relegation scrap and must build on it.
And with up to seven games in hand on some of the teams above them, there’s plenty to be gained if they can string a few wins together.